John Stanley Hauxhurst took his first plane ride when he was 11, and now at age 76 he still has his propellers rotating, but in a different way.
"A lot of people think I'm in trouble when they see me flying," said the retired Corona del Mar general contractor who flies around in a para-plane that uses a parachute as a wing.
"Most people assume that someone is on his way down when they see a parachute," he said. "They're waiting for me to crash."
Hauxhurst is one of what he believes to be only about five active para-planers in Southern California.
The three-wheel-cart para-plane is powered by two chain saw engines that drive two counter-rotating propellers. From a rolling start, the craft is lifted by the air-filled parachute. It can cruise at 24 m.p.h. and fly 25 miles on the 4 1/2 gallons of gas it stores.
"When I look down I can see drivers stopping to look at me," Hauxhurst said.
Hauxhurst has a problem with acrophobia, but only when he's on tall buildings. "I'm scared to death when I look down from a tall building. I can't even ride a Ferris wheel," he said.
But as for flying, so far, so good--even though he had to parachute out of two troubled small planes in his earlier days.
"Everyone should wear a parachute no matter the size of the plane," he contends.
Hauxhurst isn't as fond of flying his para-plane as he is regular aircraft, except that the para-plane is more convenient.
"To tell the truth, it's not that much fun to fly," he said, pointing out that it is not very maneuverable and is heavily affected by wind.
He also calls it a clumsy, wobbling machine.
"But I can hitch it on a boat trailer and take it anywhere and put it in the garage when I get back," said Hauxhurst, a former business news reporter who volunteers as a staff photographer for the Corona del Mar Oasis Senior Citizen Center newspaper.
No matter what he has flown, including the Fleet biplane in which he first soloed, Hauxhurst feels being in the air "is a spiritual experience."
He has flown ultralight aircraft, and during World War II he flew gliders, once landing troops and equipment in Germany. He also rides a motorcycle.
His wife of 51 years, Patricia, "would rather I quit riding the motorcycle and the planes, but thinks bicycle riding is fine," said the one-time rancher who raised and trained roping horses for rodeo performers.
"I've gone down twice on motorcycles," he said. "They are much more dangerous than planes."
Hauxhurst loves wild animals and spent five years as a California humane officer. He raises rare finches as a hobby.
"I used to lead some big game hunters for elk and antelope, but I stopped that," he said. "I don't think I like to shoot anything any more."
He likes to bring out his scrapbook of stories about him, telling of such adventures as capturing a mountain lion in a homeowner's garage, his bouts with raccoons ("I've caught 17 of them in homes") and his survival of a near-riot after he humanely shot an injured horse.
Sailing has been another of his recreational outlets. He has been a member of the Balboa Yacht Club since 1954 and has donated his 27-foot sailboat to the senior citizen center.
"I bought it for their use," he said. "They are nice people."
Eugenia Oyharzabal, a San Juan Capistrano resident since 1924, celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 18 and received a signed birthday card from President and Mrs. Bush.
In addition, a special birthday Mass was said for her in the San Juan Capistrano Mission with a special papal blessing from Pope John Paul II.